by Abby McDowell & Trinity Tran, FOOD CRITICS
13 March 2018
Located at 6 West Jefferson in downtown Naperville, Nando’s Peri-Peri is a hip Afro-Portuguese restaurant specializing in many chicken and vegetarian dishes. Photo by Abby McDowell.
If you’re looking for a new spot to feed your chicken cravings, look away from your usual places and look to Nando’s for a new twist on your favorite food.
The moment we stepped into Nando’s Peri-Peri (located at 6 West Jefferson Avenue in downtown Naperville), we were greeted with the aroma of authentic Afro-Portuguese cuisine, coupled with the replicated feel of a true South-African restaurant. The percussion music pumping from the speakers was accompanied with the delicate balance of warm earth tones along with vibrant artwork and furniture.
The beauty of Nando’s is that it remains a popular chain yet somehow you feel as if you are eating at a local joint. It’s popular enough where it’s easily accessible but it’s not your typical Chick-Fil-A. Aside from the desolate 3 p.m. on a Thursday lull, Nando’s Peri-Peri fully satiated our hunger with its South African influenced cuisine and its fair prices won’t keep us from coming again.The prices essentially deem it as an upscale fast food, so needless to say your bank account will enjoy Nando’s just as much as we did.
Nando’s is all about the chicken. The moment you open the menu, a wide array of chicken covers each page, ranging from grilled chicken to chicken salads to chicken burgers. Whatever chicken you desire, they probably have it. However, an equally important factor lies in their sauces. As you order, they’ll ask you what level of heat you desire and you have the option of choosing from mild to the hottest level. Since it’s an Afro-Portuguese cuisine, their “hot” is hot. Their menu explicitly says, “highly combustible: proceed with caution.” They’re not kidding.
The chicken breast sandwich was paired with what they called their medium sauce and a serving of Portuguese rice. Although mouths were watering before the dishes were placed on the table, the sight of the chicken breast sandwich only worsened the fact. The chicken breast, which was served on a crispy and fluffy Portuguese roll, was paired with fresh tomatoes, arugula, and pickled red onions and, Nando’s own, Peri-Peri mayonnaise. The sandwich provided a mix of flavors and textures that, when broken down into simple terms, was straight up delicious. Every flavor accompanied the other in a delightful harmony. The chicken was succulent and was a nice contrast to the crispy bun. The Portuguese rice was a delectable compliment to the flavorful chicken. It was a good thing that the dish was paired with a side, or there may have not been enough to satisfy us.
With all this emphasis on chicken, any vegetarians or vegans would understandably shy away from this restaurant. However, after our experience, we strongly advise you to still stop by. Their meatless options may be much fewer, but the quality of the dish remains just as exceptional. They have a small part of the menu dedicated to meatless options called the “Veg PERIdise.”
It’s not the best selection in the world as there are exactly only three choices, but considering it’s a chicken-centered joint, it’s understandable.
However, an equally important factor lies in their sauces. … Since it’s an Afro-Portuguese cuisine, their “hot” is hot. Their menu explicitly says, “highly combustible: proceed with caution.” They’re not kidding.
The veggie burger with pita bread subbing in for the usual bun and medium sauce was served with fresh green leaf lettuce, peppery sweet chili jam and tangy yogurt sauce. The “burger” doesn’t taste anything remotely close to chicken or even a chicken replacement, but it doesn’t claim to on the menu. The savory mixture of peas and potatoes drenched in Nando’s sauce paired along with the jam and yogurt earned the dish high ratings from a fellow vegetarian. It was satisfying enough where it satiated hunger but not too heavy to the point of feeling gross or overly stuffed.
As a side dish, the corn on the cob is your typical corn on the cob. There’s nothing special to it. It’s literally just corn. Good corn but plain corn nonetheless. The presentation of the dish was rather simplistic and failed to even basally elevate the corn, so don’t expect culinary artwork while waiting for your food.
Speaking of simplistic, the “barely baked brownie,” as inviting and delicious as it sounds, is utterly disappointing. If you’re prone to sharing your dessert, the brownie could hardly satisfy a child’s hunger, let alone ours. It may be “barely baked,” but it’s also “barely there.” This brownie was cold and looked like it had just came out of a plastic packaging … something along the lines of a Cosmic Brownie, a staple of desserts that we’d abandoned somewhere in our childhood. It was dry and left us wishing we had just left our meals at the chicken, a tip Nando’s should take into consideration as well.
Nando’s Peri-Peri has everything a customer could want … except desserts. Perhaps don’t come for their sugary treats, but come for their kind service, delectable chicken, Afro-Portuguese influences, and their affordable prices. Although it is a chain restaurant, its atmosphere and cuisine allows anyone who comes in to sit down feel like they are branching out into a one-of-a-kind spot.
And if you can get an original, delicious chicken at unbeatable prices, well, that’s just clucking great.
Abby McDowell and Trinity Tran are food critics for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the HOWL